Thursday, August 7, 2008

Make a silk purse from a sow's ear

I’ve been struggling with two things in the kitchen. My pickled herring is too salty. I soaked it in water for a while yesterday, then covered it with a combination of white wine and sherry vinegar. After tasting it again today, while it is some improved, I have put it in plain water again. I’ll leave it until tomorrow morning and hope for the best.

The second problem is also saltiness – my corned beef. I put it in a bath of chicken broth and water and brought it to a boil. I’m letting it sit on the stove while we go out to lunch. I’m crossing my fingers that enough salt will leach out to make it edible.

I had the same problem with my dill pickles. I found that putting them one by one in a water bath for 24 hours did the trick.

It’s Thursday now and I can report that the technique I tried with the corned beef did the job perfectly.

I have another trick for you: how to take a cheap steak and turn it into something good. I mentioned ribeye yesterday. I was referring to two boneless cuts I snared from the sale bin a few weeks ago and put in our geezer freezer in the basement.

I grilled them on the stovetop last weekend. They had fine flavor but were rather chewy – obviously not a great cut of beef. We ate some of the leftovers as tacos for supper last night and the meat was superb. Why? Marinade! Hence the following game plan:

Make a silk purse from a sow’s ear (101)

Any supermarket steak of lesser quality than filet mignon or sirloin
Olive oil
Worcestershire sauce
Chinese black vinegar
Sherry wine or red wine vinegar

Here’s the unusual thing, right up front: do this a few days before you are actually going to eat the meat. Grill the steak, stovetop is fine. Rub it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and any other seasoning that inspires you (I used some no-salt rub someone gave us).

This is important: cook the meat only to a rare state, no matter how you want it when you actually get to eat it. The goal here is to get a sear on the outside. Set the steak aside and let it rest for at least 10-15 minutes. Now, slice it thinly, say ¼” at most. If it’s a bone-in steak, cut the meat off and discard the bones, or give them to your dog or your mail man.

In a bowl, mix up the marinade of 1 part each “chester” sauce and Chinese black vinegar*, and ½ part sherry vinegar. The amount you need is entirely dependant on how much you think you need to coat the meat slices lightly all over. I’ll make a stab at this: perhaps 1/2 cup of marinade per 8 oz. of meat. I can’t guarantee that’s precise, but you’ll do fine.

Put the meat and the marinade in a freezer bag and squish it around. Lay the bag flat on a shelf in your fridge and leave it alone for 2 or 3 or even 4 days, except for turning and re-squishing it once or twice a day.

When you are ready to enjoy the meats of your labor, reheat it in a skillet or on your grill or stovetop, cooking it at this point to your preferred doneness.

This may be the first time anyone told you to cook a steak and not eat it for a few days. But we’re talking supermarket steak here. We were stunned at how good the meat was last night compared to last weekend when we first sampled it. I will try this again with various cuts of meat I can get on sale. If you’re interested, I’ll report back.

*Black vinegar is really worthwhile to have. It is more sweet than tart. It makes an excellent addition to various salad vinaigrettes and can be used to substitute for balsamic when you want a milder, sweeter result. Also, it's cheap.

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